India, Pakistan to join China-led regional security bloc: report

By BenarNews Staff
150706-IN-pla-620 Members of the People's Liberation Army of China take part in a Shanghai Cooperation Organization military ceremony in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 30, 2015.

India and Pakistan appear set to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at the security bloc’s annual summit in the Russian city of Ufa later this week, according to reports.

It would be the first expansion in 14 years for the China-led regional group aimed at “combating terrorism, separatism and extremism” – and a development seen by China as hugely beneficial to its economic and geopolitical goals for the region.

The two countries will start the process of joining the SCO at its July 9-10 heads-of-state summit, which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are expected to attend, according to Reuters.

“India and Pakistan's admission to the SCO will play an important role in the SCO’s development,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping told a news briefing Monday in Beijing.

The bloc currently includes China, Russia and the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Iran, India and Pakistan have been observer states since 2005.

Rights groups say that SCO member countries, including China, have used murky definitions of terrorism to justify the repression in their countries.

China has intensified a sweeping security crackdown against ethnic Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang, many of whom have been accused by the authorities of terrorism and separatism.

‘Geopolitical pressures’

Chinese television had reported in mid-June that SCO would soon expand to include India and Pakistan.

“At this year’s summit in Ufa, Russia, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will finally open its doors to expansion. At the summit for heads of state in July, the SCO will officially receive India and Pakistan as new members,” a China Central Television (CCTV) report said.

“All member states have basically reached a consensus that India and Pakistan will be the first.”

Both countries are important to China’s overland and maritime economic development initiatives, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road, the CCTV report said.

Closer relations with Pakistan and India will “reduce geopolitical pressure” on China, it added, citing “challenges to regional stability” in the East and South China seas, where China is aggressively expanding into maritime territory claimed by other countries.

“The addition of India and Pakistan into SCO effectively opens up China’s strategic space and enables China to try to address the issues,” the CCTV report said.

It further claimed that “India and Pakistan will greatly enhance the functionality and influence of the organization.”

Tense relations

South Asian observers, meanwhile, were hoping the summit would provide a chance for Indian and Pakistani leaders to meet in person and cool the temperature of the bilateral relationship.

“The Prime Minister will also hold important bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the SCO summit,” Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Monday, without naming the participants.

The Indian media widely reported that Modi and Sharif would meet on July 10.

It would be only their second meeting since Sharif accepted an unprecedented invitation to attend the Indian prime minister’s swearing-in in New Delhi in May 2014. The two shared a handshake at the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Kathmandu in last November.

Relations have been strained since then, with repeated cross-border infiltrations by militants into Indian-controlled Kashmir, and in the wake of India’s military action inside Myanmar, reportedly to dismantle Indian separatists’ base there.

During his visit to Bangladesh in early June, Modi openly criticized Pakistan.

"Pakistan constantly disturbs India, creates nuisance, promotes terrorism, and such incidents keep recurring," Modi had said in his address to Dhaka University.

But, according to news reports, Modi called Sharif on Wednesday, extending best wishes on the occasion of Ramadan while noting that there was a need for "peaceful" and "friendly" bilateral ties between the two countries.

He also conveyed Delhi’s decision to release detained Pakistani fishermen to mark Ramadan.


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